Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family are involved in the criminal enterprise of buying oil from the Islamic State, the Russian Defense Ministry alleged Wednesday.
“We are absolutely convinced… that the final destination of the stolen oil is Turkey,” said Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov to journalists in Moscow. “According to our data, the political leadership of the country [Turkey], including President Erdogan and his family, is involved in this criminal business.”
Russian military officials spoke of three main smuggling routes that ISIS uses to sell “industrial levels” of oil to Turkey, providing satellite images of pipelines and thousands of oil tankers being filled inside ISIS territory and moved into Turkish refineries to back up the claim. Erdogan’s son-in-law and Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister, Berat Albayrak, was also implicated in the scheme. In response, Erdogan has made a public promise to resign if accusations about his illegal oil ties to ISIS are proven, flatly denying the charges and accusing Russia of slandering Turkey.
“We are not that dishonest as to buy oil from terrorists. If it is proven that we have, in fact, done so, I will leave office. If there is any evidence, let them present it, we’ll consider [it],” Erdogan said to reporters after a session of the Paris climate change conference.
“It is not possible to explain Russia’s allegations by reason,” added Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Speaking at a university in Qatar’s capital city of Doha, Erdogan stated he did not want relations with Moscow to deteriorate further.
NBC reported that Antonov expressed doubt Erdogan would step down or admit any wrongdoing.
“We understand that some of the Turkish leaders, notably Mr. Erdogan, will not step down and will not admit anything. I would like to emphasize that Erdogan’s resignation is not our goal. It’s up to the people of Turkey to decide.”
Petroleum stolen from ISIS-occupied territory of Syria and Iraq being sold to Turkey and its elected leader Erdogan personally profiting from it is indeed a very grave charge, especially considering that Turkey is a member of the Western coalition against ISIS.
The sale of black market oil, much of it allegedly to Turkey, does constitute the major source of income for ISIS. The terrorist organization can make an estimated $8 to $10 million a month on the sale of smuggled oil and gas, strengthening its grip on the region and allowing it to expand its influence further. ABC News Australia reported that a member of the Turkish opposition claimed that ISIS had smuggled $800 million worth of oil into Turkey.
U.S. officials have previously said that there is evidence of Turkish involvement in the buying of black market oil from the Islamic State. However, the report mentions only Turkish “middlemen.”
“So who, ultimately, is buying this oil?” The report said. “According to our information, as of last month, ISIL was selling oil at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middlemen, including some from Turkey, who then transported the oil to be resold.”
If Russia’s charges prove true regarding Erdogan’s financial ties to ISIS from the very top, it would prove disastrous for the Turkish state’s reputation.
Tensions between the two major powers have hit an all-time high since the shooting down of a Russian S-24 jet by the Turkish Air Force on November 24 last week, which led to the death of one of the pilots, as well as a Marine sent to rescue him. Turkey claimed the Russian warplane entered Turkish airspace from Syria, which Russia denied and said was still in Syrian airspace. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed in a speech on Tuesday that the downing of the Russian plane was done to protect the transit of ISIS oil to Turkey and Erdogan’s alleged underhanded deals with the Islamic State.
(Photo by Ng Han Guan-Pool/Getty Images)